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Conservative Christian Women's Group Updates View of Motherhood

Conservative Christian Women's Group Updates View of Motherhood
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The venue looks like a rock concert. But the songs are about Jesus, and the huge crowd in the sports arena is almost exclusively female.

The 24-city “Believe God Can Do Anything” tour is sponsored by the non-denominational group, “Women of Faith,” which has been staging such inspirational events since 1996.

At the Verizon Center sports arena in Washington, D.C., the two-day event combined Christian rock music with a soothing message for American women stressed by the demands of modern-day living.

“Do you get that God loves - you?” preacher Sheila Walsh asked the audience as the first musical act wrapped up, “that God is committed to showing up in your life?”

Walsh was born in Scotland and now lives in Texas. She used to co-host the The 700 Club television show on the Christian Broadcasting Network.

She is one of several so-called "bible teachers" who take the stage. In an interview, she says she joined Women of Faith because she wants to help women cope. Her message is: “Be yourself. If that means you’re going to be the best career woman out there, then you go do it. If you want to be the best home-schooling mother, you do that,” says Walsh.

America is in the throes of a debate over how women in the United States should balance work and family.

Conservative Christian churches have long taught that women should primarily be mothers and homemakers, but Judith Warner, a fellow at the Center for American Progress and a bestselling author of books on women’s issues, says the recession and the increasing costs of health and child care have rendered that model obsolete.

“The divisions that we saw so strongly in the culture wars of 20 years ago,” she says, “where we had stay-at-home moms pitted against working moms, and we had feminists accused of bringing about the ruin of the American family by putting working women to work - that stuff is largely over,” she says.

Now, Warner says, religious and secular women are both struggling.

“In some ways, the churches have moved forward with the times more than some of our other institutions,” she says, adding that more than one quarter of children under the age of five who are in day care are in churches, synagogues and other places of worship. And while liberal churches are more symbolically in favor of flexible gender roles, conservative churches offer more family-friendly programs, says Warner.

“They’ve really been really active in supporting working families,” she adds.

At the Women of Faith event, Stella Lee stood in the front row and sang along with the inspirational music.

“As a woman, as a mom, as a wife, as a worker, we get so busy and so many times we get completely drained," she said. "When I come here I look around at all the other women of different races, different ages. I just get encouraged.”

During a break, Walsh, the preacher, rejected the traditional view that a devout woman’s place is solely in the home.

“There are so many ways to be fruitful and multiply,” she said. Walsh believes Scripture places men and women “side by side.” She does, however, argue that secular feminism has led women to believe they can have it all, while popular culture is putting unrealistic demands on them.

“Our culture says that a woman is judged by how she looks on the outside, by how she dresses and how she presents herself, by her dress size and what her skin looks like and whether her hair is waving in the wind. What we’re telling women is, at the very core of who you are, you are seen and valued by God," she said. "The rest is just window dressing.”